poetry George was ruthless. Even in the prose passages in the Blätter not by George himself, there is often a sweeping condemnation of much that sets itself up as having cultural value in German literature of the day; such statements, for instance, as: 'The fact that there is no possibility in Germany of an artistic or poetical event is a proof that we live in a cultural state of the second rank', or that neither in Switzerland nor in the northern countries could works be offered to the public as cultural achievements such as are offered in Germany.


IV

In the history of German poetry the name of Platen stands for the cultivation of formal beauty in verse. As such he is acclaimed and revered by those later poets and schools of poets who have stressed the importance of form; and as such he is quoted with approval and respect by George; indeed George sometimes couples his name with that of Goethe. He was attacked by Heine in a prose work entitled Die Bäder von Lucca in the twenties of the nineteenth century, an attack in which there is much that is scurrilous and concerned with him as a personality. But in the following passage an attempt is made by Heine -- who is representative of an antithetical conception and practice of poetry -- to define certain characteristics of Platen as a poet, and this has its bearing upon George as well. It should be noted that Platen was much concerned with poetry in set forms and with metrical complications, and that the excessive preoccupation with these elements in the art of poetry was repugnant and, one may feel, incomprehensible to Heine, so that where he found it he was apt to reject the works in which he felt it to be obtrusive. He writes:

Though the muses are not favourable to Platen, yet he has the genius of language in his power, or rather he knows how to do violence to it. . . The deeper notes of nature, as we find them in folk songs, in children and in other poets have never burst forth from the soul of Platen. . . The anxious compulsion which he has to impose upon himself in order to say anything, he calls 'a great deed in words' -- so utterly unknown to him is the very nature of poetry that he does not understand that the Word is a 'deed' only with the rhetorician, and that with the poet it is an 'event'. Language has never become the master in him as it has in the real poet; on the contrary it is he who has become master in language or rather

-26-

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Stefan George
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Introduction 9
  • I 11
  • II 18
  • III 20
  • IV 26
  • V 31
  • VI 45
  • VII 56
  • Appendix 59
  • Biographical Dates 62
  • Select Bibliography 63
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